Key's curious desire to talk policy - blog
Fri, 18 Nov 2011 4:37p.m.
By Nandor Tanczos
It is refreshing to hear John Key demanding the media focus on policy in the election campaign. Curious strategy, since I would have thought National's policy platform was their Achilles heel but they do need to get away from the poor handling of the storm in a tea cup.
National has relied heavily on John Key's easy-going charm, using things like RadioLIVE’s 'politics-free' Prime Minister’s hour and a presidential-style campaign, and Key's overreaction to what should have been a minor affair hurts his brand. Ironically, the party which has expended so much effort to play up Key's personal characteristics now has to convince people to shift their gaze.
Which is a good thing. It would be nice to think the election might be decided on what the political parties plan to do if they become government, rather than which of the leaders we'd rather have round for a barbie. Anything which takes us closer to that goal has my support. This is especially true in the context of an on-going global financial crisis, looming oil supply constraints, accelerating environmental degradation and increasing frequency of extreme weather events due to climate change.
National has been criticised for being on the “smile and wave” plan when it comes to economic management. In my view that is unfair. National does have a clear plan for the future, which is to strip mine the country.
From Key's enthusiastic support of Solid Energy's plan to dig up lignite (the lowest value and dirtiest type of coal) and convert it into briquettes, urea and diesel, to his secretive meetings with Anadarko boss James Hackett this week, one of the companies involved in the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill, to his on-going commitment to dig up the conservation estate, National remains committed to coal mining and deep sea oil drilling, despite this putting at risk the natural environment that is so fundamental to our national identity.
Similarly, National intends to strip-mine Aotearoa's wealth by partially privatising a number of State Owned Enterprises. This will turn a sustainable income from the returns from those shares into a one-off payment, effectively giving Key's government (if elected) a chunk of money to spend but leaving a short-fall for future governments to make good. As with deep-sea oil drilling, National seems prepared to sacrifice the future well-being of the country for a short term cash boost.
What makes it worse is how National intends to spend the money. A significant portion of it will be spent on education and health – which is a bit like selling the tractor to pay for school fees. Education and health spending are basic budget items that should be paid out of income. It would be lunacy to sell income-generating capital to pay for them.
The rest of the money will go on subsidising farm irrigation. This will speed up the expansion of dairy farming at the very time when we need to put limits around it.
Creating taxpayer-funded artificial profits for farming (which are increasingly owned by corporations rather than families) prevents diversification of the economy by preventing more efficient land use in marginal areas. It also speeds up the killing of our lakes and rivers and makes it impossible for us to pull our weight in international efforts to prevent catastrophic climate change.
The problem voters face, of course, is where else to turn. Labour has taken a bold step in announcing a range of courageous policies that begin to take it back to its base.
Phil Goff is looking more attractive to the public when he occasionally manages to relax at bit and stop trying so hard. The fact that most of Labour's best ideas are actually samples of long time Green policy may be a good or a bad thing depending on how one looks at it, but what Labour lacks in my view is coherence. Labour needs to be clear about its vision if it wants to be convincing, and it may just be too soon after its foray on the right to do that.
The party that does have a coherent economic policy, one that actually grapples with the realities of the 21st century, is the Greens, which is why they seem to be on a trajectory to becoming the main opposition to National. Let’s just hope they get enough votes this election to prevent Steven Joyce and Gerry Brownlee doing the skinhead moonstomp all over Aotearoa New Zealand.
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24/11/2011 10:51:41 p.m.
Strip mining, increased lack of diversification, asset selling (water (power), land etc etc )= NZ's loss of identity as we know it. We will no longer be seen as "clean and green" Any market advantage we may of had is certaintly disappearing. Can we think about generations to come for a change..
22/11/2011 9:55:02 p.m.
Rude Awakening wrote:
Lets not forget that there is a carbon tax, a money making scheme to rid ordinary day citizens all over the world of the bit of budget surplus they might os could have had. Is this not monay to be used for conservation?So we will be taxed at the airport for our carbon footprint while Natioanl allows conservation area to be mined?
22/11/2011 2:37:48 p.m.
AJ – SOE's are not Government owned and operated so your point, even if it were true, is not relevant. Aleksis, your assertion that all SOEs (companies that operate according to market disciplines but which are owned by the Government) would suddenly become more productive simply because some of their shares are sold off is pure ideology. Read Brian Gaynor (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10747634) who says that the “top 10 sharemarket value figures show that New Zealand businessmen and women have lost the ability to create great companies and the domestic sharemarket is now heavily reliant on former publicly owned organisations”. In fact privatisation of public assets seems to make the private sector more productive not vice versa. Finally, are you honestly saying that we should fund the education system by selling capital assets? What do we do when we run out of SOEs?
21/11/2011 9:39:32 p.m.
national using tax payer money to artificially improve the dairy market in the face of major economic problems?
well, now doesn't That sound familiar?
21/11/2011 5:53:35 p.m.
This article is riddled with illogical assertions. The one I'm going to pick out is "Education and health spending are basic budget items that should be paid out of income." Irregardless of whether that is a valid point (debatable), with NZs small population, geographic isolation, already well developed horticulture, agriculture and tourism industries education has to be the cornerstone of economic growth in New Zealand (unless the left wants to talk about mining) - hence is a productive resource, not a basic budget item. Investing in education creates revenue flows in the future. Partial selling of innefficient (that can be proved with any case study you care to choose) SOEs results in the enterprise making more profit, hence paying more tax, providing better services and the value of the remaining shares increase in value. Why not pay for a productive resource with the sale of an inefficient resource?
21/11/2011 1:53:24 p.m.
AJ - you talk up the "full picture" but it is obvious you don't see it for yourself. Your example of Telecom being a poster child for success in privatisation shows a large lack of understanding on your part about the damage that Telecom as a private company has inflicted on the growth of New Zealand as a whole.
While most Telcos the world over were inwardly investing into their their product portfolio (their network infrastructure) for over a decade as technology was moving in a new direction, what did Telecom do ? They paid out share holders with the best dividends from pretty much any Telco anywhere.
No investment into their core product for way too long has now seen this lame duck government giving 1 BILLION, yes thats 1 BILLION dollars from the public purse to this profiteering monster to build the infrastructure the COUNTRY NEEDs to advance its economy in this, the 21st Century.
The opportunity to introduce real competition into the Telco space now squandered for at least another generation with nearly all the money available given to the incumbent, truly unbelievable !
With National selling off the power companies how long will it be until the 51% stake is no longer there as the Government has sold a little more to pay for and a little more to pay for that ?? More Tax cuts for those who already have the most anyone ?
The next move then will be large scale "Green" energy projects being shelved as "too expensive" and more coal and oil fired energy generation being built.
Then when later it is realised that the alternative projects would have been a better option and they need to be built the privatised companies will bleat they are too expensive and hold out their hands for public money because all the "profit" i.e. proceeds from the generation companies have flowed offshore to the elitist mates of those from Goldman Sachs.
Filling in some blanks in your "Full picture" AJ ????
21/11/2011 1:17:07 p.m.
John Key was only keen to talk policy, because if he could do that it meant he wouldn't have to talk about the "other thing". An that "other thing" like Winston Peters is scaring the hell out of JK
21/11/2011 10:25:31 a.m.
Why don't you present the full picture Nandos? Any asset sales do not involve selling 100% of the assets. My understanding is there is an intention to retain a majority shareholding. Look at what Telecom acheived post-privatisation : greater productivity and profitablity. If only we had held onto a majority stake in Telecom then we would have a smaller share of a much larger profit stream. You know (but won't admit) that Government owned and operated organisations are not as efficient as the private sector. Where is the sense in owning 100% of something that returns say $20m versus owning 51% of something that returns $50m?
20/11/2011 9:25:20 p.m.
Max C wrote:
Wonder if Key will be being whisked away in a limo a'la Berlusconi in 2 years time, under further allegations of insider trading and profiting from the losses of New Zealand, all the richer as he smiles and waves goodbye to his few remaining adoring fans ;(
20/11/2011 12:06:10 a.m.
Mark H wrote:
Nandor's comments here are spot on. The comment above where his views on economics are doubted is to me typical of the dominant short-sighted norm amongst many when they think about economics in isolation from everything else such as the environment and a consideration of others. Once they start ensuring that all students at Business schools are made to study ethics, environmental studies and sociology will many in the mainstream and on the political right begin to understand and see what Nandor and the Greens are talking about. Nothing works in isolation, not even economics.
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